Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 27

pilot is braking but not enough, certainly not enough for the lieutenant to command us to bail out. The engines heave beneath us and we are deafened by adrenaline. We see the silhouettes of the first men bailing out. As they jump, the tops of their hats are illuminated against the finally risen sun, and then, after a split second, they fall

& the TV clips to a montage of still shots: an American soldier, lying in a stretcher, his buddy holding a cigarette to his mouth. A building with smoke pouring out of the side, a man with smoke pouring out of the side. Everything with insides turned out. Sam Chaplin's voice bleeds through.

The images you're seeing now are part of an aggressive new NVA strategy General Westmoreland is calling the Tet Offensive.

Sam Chaplin has never had such a rapt audience in his life

& what you can't learn about war from training camp, or films, or stories, or news footage, or anything, is how loud it is. Nothing can prepare you for the sound of it: the artillery shells exploding, the mortar, guns, and grenades firing. Engines roaring overhead, men yelling out directions, men yelling out curses and prayers and words of comfort, words of despair, men yelling out nothing at all

& I hear my mother's voice behind us.

Girls, she says. Something has happened.

Our mothers stand together, white-faced and wilting,

Kelly Kiehl | 27